Circularly polarized light detection in stomatopod crustaceans: A comparison of photoreceptors and possible function in six species

Rachel M. Templin, Martin J. How, Nicholas W. Roberts, Tsyr Huei Chiou, Justin Marshall

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6 Citations (Scopus)


A combination of behavioural and electrophysiological experiments have previously shown that two species of stomatopod, Odontodactylus scyllarus and Gonodactylaceus falcatus, can differentiate between left- and right-handed circularly polarized light (CPL), and between CPL and linearly polarized light (LPL). It remains unknown if these visual abilities are common across all stomatopod species, and if so, how circular polarization sensitivity may vary between and within species. A subsection of the midband, a specialized region of stomatopod eyes, contains distally placed photoreceptor cells, termed R8 (retinular cell number 8). These cells are specifically built with unidirectional microvilli and appear to be angled precisely to convert CPL into LPL. They are mostly quarterwave retarders for human visible light (400-700 nm), as well as being ultraviolet-sensitive linear polarization detectors. The effectiveness of the R8 cells in this role is determined by their geometric and optical properties. In particular, the length and birefringence of the R8 cells are crucial for retardation efficiency. Here, our comparative studies show that most species investigated have the theoretical ability to convert CPL into LPL, such that the handedness of an incoming circular reflection or signal could be discriminated. One species, Haptosquilla trispinosa, shows less than quarter-wave retardance. Whilst some species are known to produce circularly polarized reflections (some Odontodactylus species and G. falcatus, for example), others do not, so a variety of functions for this ability are worth considering.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3222-3230
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Issue number18
Publication statusPublished - 2017 Sep 15

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Physiology
  • Aquatic Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Insect Science


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